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LONDON – Activists are planning a three-day protest outside the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday after failing to persuade authorities to cancel an Israel exhibition in the parliament building.
The three-day exhibition looks at Israel’s achievements in medicine, science and technology. Organizers said the exhibition is entirely non-political, and that it presents a view of Israel beyond the conflict “focusing on what could be achieved, with peace, for Israel and her immediate neighbors.”
Last week the parliament’s Public Petitions Committee (PPC) rejected a petition calling for the exhibition, which runs until Thursday, to be cancelled.
Initiated by a radical fringe group, the petition called the exhibition a “shameless PR exercise.”
“Hosting this exhibition in the Scottish Parliament potentially implicates all of us in a whitewashing of Israeli crimes. Cancellation will send a clear message that Scots oppose the heinous crimes of Israel,” the petition said.
The PPC disagreed, saying there had been no breach of its guidelines for exhibitions.
A number of Scottish MSPs condemned the decision to host the exhibition. However, a Scottish Green Party MSP who referred to Israel as a “rouge state” in his criticism of the exhibition retracted his words on Monday.
Green MSP Robin Harper had said: “Israel is a ‘rogue state’; this is simply not the right time in history for us to be celebrating Israel’s contributions. This is the time when we should be continuing to put the pressure on Israel to behave themselves properly.”
On Monday he said he had “exaggerated” and did not mean what he said.
“My comments may have been a bit exaggerated,” Green MSP Robin Harper told The Jerusalem Post
. “What I meant to say was that it is a state that routinely ignores UN resolutions.”
Another Green Party MSP, Patrick Harvie, raised a motion in parliament to “recognize the deep feelings of anger that exist at the record of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians over decades and in particular the military action taken in recent years.”
“The prolonged, brutal and unacceptable mistreatment of the Palestinians should be the central issue that the parliament addresses in any events that relate to the Israel/Palestine situation,” Harvie suggested in the motion.
“The [one] international issue that this parliament has united on is the issue of condemnation of the Israeli state... What we’re actually doing is condoning the actions of a state against another state by actually hosting this exhibition. We need to be very careful in terms of the types of countries and regimes that we’re actually dealing with,” said Scottish National Party MSP John Wilson.
“If we’re talking about not taking trade missions to Israel, I think we also have to be looking at not having demonstrations of support for [Israel’s] achievements... to celebrate Israeli technology at this time is to collude in the routine testing of new weapons on the imprisoned Palestinian people, the dropping of white phosphorous on built-up areas of Gaza, the denial of spare parts to water purification plants designed to cause illness and suffering and the technological edge that enables Israel to kill over 1,400 people in Gaza at little risk to those carrying this out. That unfortunately, at this moment in time, is what we will be celebrating with this display,” said SNP MSP Anne McLaughlin.
Organized by the Scottish Friends of Israel, the exhibition is sponsored by Labor MSP Ken MacIntosh, who has been dismayed by some of the comments posted on the petition and told the Post
he has received some “strongly worded” correspondence calling for him to withdraw support for the exhibition.
In a written response to complainants, MacIntosh said the exhibition was to allow MSPs to see some of the advances in science and medicine which have come from what is often regarded as a troubled part of the world.
“We Scots have benefited from such discoveries, but it is also the case that by offering a different and positive perspective, I hope this display will help challenge what I believe to be the often one-sided and hostile portrayal of Israel in the media and unfortunately occasionally in the Scottish Parliament itself,” he said.
“It is impossible not to feel moved by the violence and pain experienced by too many across the religious and ethnic divides in the Middle East, but I do not believe it aids anyone’s understanding of the difficulties or complexity of the situation to paint an entire country [or] people in a single color.
“We are all touched directly and indirectly by what happens in Israel
and it is sadly the case that any increase in tension or violence in
the region is often reflected in anti-Semitic and other unwelcome
incidents amongst our own communities here in Scotland.”
Members of the Scottish Parliament can sponsor exhibitions in the
parliament building to provide information or highlight relevant issues
to other members. MSPs are entitled to sponsor exhibitions which have a
relevance to their parliamentary or constituency role, and the decision
to sponsor a particular topic or organization is the responsibility of
the sponsoring member.
In January, the Scottish Parliament hosted an exhibition entitled “Gaza
Now.” Organized by charity Edinburgh Direct Aid, and sponsored by Labor
MSP Pauline McNeil, it contained photographs and testimonies of Gaza
residents and casualties during Operation Cast Lead.